Design Project Rationale


My design project provides a short introduction to using the internet safely for all students which will support our new college eSafety policy. The intention is that this is not just an information object – “a structured aggregation of digital assets” but uses “structured sequences of information and activities to promote learning”  (Littlejohn et al., 2008, p.759) to create a reusable learning object to allow this topic to be delivered efficiently by a wide range of tutors. This has been created using Xerte to maximise accessibility and has been put in to Moodle to allow us to trace which students have completed it.


The learning object will be used by teachers with full-time classes during induction but part-time students will be directed to look at it outside class so it needs to be effective for both classroom delivery and independent study and to be suitable for a range of students from levels 1 to 6. Tutors and their students will have a diverse range of IT skills and a variety of levels of previous knowledge about eSafety and a wide range of online resources are already available which could have been used, however the topic needs to be completed in a very short period of time (15-20 minutes) as there are many topics to be covered during induction. This means that the purpose of the object is to help “evaluate and filter the information on offer “(Luckin et al, 2012, p.16) while also referring staff and students to sources of further information on our VLE in case they wish to research the topic further.


Mayes & De Freitas (2004, p.24) categorise learning objects as part of an “associationist/ISD” approach – this would not seem appropriate for teaching eSafety as it is crucial that students create their own understanding of risks so they can apply this knowledge to new technologies as they continue their learning. Instead, constructivism would be a more effective pedagogy, and Mayer argues that multimedia learning (usually central to learning objects) supports a constructivist approach to learning and allows learners to “engage in active learning … even when the presentation media do not allow hands-on activity” (2003, p. 130).

The learning object combines text, images and video, based on Mayer’s conclusion that “students can learn more deeply from well-designed multimedia messages consisting of words and pictures” (2003, p.125) and incorporates the 4 key ‘effects’ or design principles he identifies:

  • word and images/video are combined on each screen (the multimedia effect)
  • only material that is central to what needs to be learned is included (the coherence effect)
  • words are placed close to the picture they relate to – for example the page of Facebook Privacy setting (the spatial contiguity effect)
  • text is ‘conversational’ i.e. informal rather than formal (the personalization effect). Mayer’s evidence to support this fourth principle is limited but it seems sensible to adopt this approach as the content I am developing will be part of tutorial support rather than academic delivery

Weller (2002, p.73) highlights the power of narrative in education, emphasising its ability to provide structure, context and familiarity and “help(s) make the information tangible and memorable” (McLellan, 2007, p. 72). This reinforces the ‘conversational’ style of communication used in the learning object , Lambert (2002), cited in McLellan (2007, p. 69-70) states that “In general, we prefer the frank admission of responsibility that the first-person voice provides to the authoritative, seemingly neutral, but nevertheless obscure stance of the third-person voice”.

Narrative elements have been included in the learning object in the form of ‘case studies’  such as the videos included on cyberbullying and Facebook misuse but these been used alongside interactive elements such as quizzes which provide formative feedbackto avoid “the narrative itself becom(ing) the focus” (Weller, 2002, p.74). Providing quiz questions for students to test their own knowledge throughout the object reinforces the constructivist approach by allowing opportunities for “Self-generated feedback arising from reflection and self-assessment” (JISC, 2010, p.11). Koller (2011) emphasises the importance of ‘retrieval practice’ questions with immediate feedback in allowing students to assess their own learning and providing them with a ‘safe’ place to learn by failing and repeating assessments.


Although taking a constructivist approach, the learning object reflects only one aspect of this, defined by Moshman as ‘exogenous constructivism’ – the idea that “formal instruction, in conjunction with exercises requiring learners to be cognitively active, can help learners to form knowledge representations which they can later apply to realistic tasks” (1982, in Dalgaron, 2001, p.185). Collis & Moomen (2006, p.49) found that “learners can and do become engaged in learning through their own intrinsic motivations, without the need for a teacher or instructional designer” – for example, the Hole in the Wall project (described in Luckin et al, 2012, p.30). However, the learning object allows only limited opportunities for ‘endogenous constructivism’ which “emphasises learner exploration” (Dalgaron, 2001, p.183). This is because eSafety is a topic centred round preventing risk, and so does not lend itself to a student-led approach such as resource or problem-based learning – because as Weller (2002, p.66) identifies they can “lead to mistaken beliefs” in topics where there are right and wrong answers.

The other aspect of constructivism is the social or ‘dialectical’ approach, reflecting the principle “normally attributed to Vygotsky … that learning occurs within a social context and that interaction between learners and their peers is a necessary part of the learning process” (Dalgaron, 2001, p.184). Thus a key limitation of the learning object is the need for it to act as a stand-alone resource for independent learning as well as to be used as part of a teacher-led session. Fowler & Mayes (1999, p.7) identified 3 stages of learning: conceptualisation; construction & integration. The learning object addresses the first two stages by presenting information on new concepts to the students and allowing them to test their understanding of this through online activities but is unable to support the third stage through “dialogue and discussion”. However, where the learning object is combined with classroom delivery as part of a blended learning approach or used as part of a wider online course supported by tools such as blogs and forums, teachers will be able to provide this support.


The support and guidance given to the staff delivering the induction will play a central role in the success of this learning object, particularly for lower level and less confident students, reflecting Salmon’s belief that “whilst learning design creates the pedagogy, the human intervention by an empathetic teacher enables the learning” (2011, p.4). However, the learning object can still provide a useful if more limited learning opportunity for students using the materials independently if there is no opportunity for classroom-based activity.



Collis, Betty and Moonen, Jef (2006)The contributing student: learners as co-developers of learning resources for reuse in Web environments. In: Engaged learning with emerging technologies. Springer Science + Business Media, Dordrecht, Nederland, pp. 49-67

Dalgarno, B. 2001, ‘Interpretations of constructivism and consequences for Computer Assisted Learning’, British Journal of Educational Technology, 32 (2) pp. 183-183

Fowler, C., & Mayes, T. (1999). ‘Learning relationships: from theory to design.’ Association for Learning Technology Journal, 7(3), pp. 6–16.

JISC (2010). Effective Assessment in a digital age. Bristol: HEFCE

Koller, D. (2011) The Online Revolution: education for everyone [online] Available at: [Accessed 5th December 2012]

Littlejohn, A., Falconer, I., & Mcgill, L.(2008) ‘Characterising effective eLearning resources.’ Computers & Education, 50 pp. 757–771

Luckin, R., Bligh, B., Manches, A., Ainsworth, S., Crook, C. & Noss R. (2012) Decoding Learning. London: Nesta

Mayer, Richard E. (2003) ‘The promise of multimedia learning: using the same instructional design methods across different media.’ Learning and Instruction. 13 (2), pp. 125-139

Mayes, T & de Freitas, S. (2004) JISC e-Learning Models Desk Study: Stage 2: Review of e-learning theories, frameworks and models. Bristol: JISC

McLellan H. (2007) ‘Digital storytelling in higher education.’ Journal of Computing in Higher Education.19, pp.65-79.

Salmon, G. (2011) E-moderating : the key to online teaching and learning. 3rd ed. London: Routledge.

Weller, M. (2002) Delivering Learning on the Net. London: Kogan Page

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